March 27, 2009

Two Spoonfuls: The Creaming Method

Hey there, I'm back this week with Alton Brown to tell you about The Creaming Method (you'll remember that I've been working my way through "I'm Just Here for More Food"). This method refers to that wonderfully vague phrase you see in tons of recipes, "cream until light and fluffy". This is one of those phrases that always gets me a little nervous. What exactly does that mean, "light and fluffy"? hmmm? Well, Alton is here to help us out. In a nutshell, here's how it goes:

  • Measure all ingredients. Fats should be "pliable but solid". You want soft butter, no signs of melting.
  • Combine dry ingredients (except sugar) and give them a whirl in the food processor.
  • Beat eggs together along with any extracts.
  • Using your stand mixer on medium with the paddle attachment, mix the fats a bit to spread them around the bowl. Then, slowly add the sugar and beat until the mixture lightens in color and increases slightly in volume.
  • Reduce speed to stir and add the egg mixture, slowly. Stop to scrape down the bowl as needed.
  • Add dry ingredients in 3 installments, alternating with liquids. Ending with the liquid will give you a smoother batter.
  • stir in any chocolate chips or nuts etc.
  • Bake
So, that's the basic method. I learned quite a few little tidbits in this chapter. First, Alton went through some great ways to prepare your pan for baking.

I whipped up a batch of AB's Kustom Kitchen Lube before I got started on my Chocolate Pound Cake. It's just a blend of flour and shortening that can be used to grease baking pans. No more grease and flour for me. Yay! Thanks, Alton.

Alton suggests mixing the eggs together first when baking, "so that the water in the egg whites can hook up with the emulsifiers in the yolks". They'll absorb faster into the batter.

I'm a slave to the food processor now, I love to use it in place of sifting. I don't miss that kitchen gadget one bit. All of my dry ingredients went for a spin together.

I followed Alton's recipe for Chocolate Pound Cake. Nick gave it two thumbs up, for me it was just okay. I think I expected it to be a little sweeter (3 cups of sugar!) and a little more chocolatey. I'm not a great baker though, I probably did something wrong. Anyway, it's good and there's a ton of it. Ayone want to come over for a sample?

Want to try a pound cake recipe?
What is a pound cake?
Check out what Wikipedia has to say about it.


Something tells me that Jenn is making something that might not go with my cake, let's see what she's up to.

March 25, 2009

All Over the Place

Just a peek at what I've been making lately. A bit of everything.

Last night, the idea of making some crocheted Easter eggs just popped into my head. While Nick watched Quantum of Solace (this movie is so not my cup of tea), I came up with a pattern that works for me. I've made these six so far, I think I'll make a few more.

While working on my zipper pouch pattern, I discovered that some of the photos were missing. I had to start all over again, so this is what I made. I'm really hooked on these fabrics and this color combo. I'm thinking it's a perfect color scheme for my future laundry room. I'm going to hang this print in there for sure!

Speaking of Easter, I finally listed a Nano Bunny this morning. I wasn't sure I liked him, but he might as well get his chance for adoption. Poor Hank deserves a good home as much as any other critter. ha!

March 23, 2009

Getting Ready to Move

Nick and I are finally getting ready to make our move to the Seattle area. Yay!! We've been talking about this for about 3 years now so we're really excited that it's finally coming. We're buying a house and getting out of California (hopefully for good). I plan to get a moving company in to help out, but I'll be doing some of the packing myself.

I've already started going through my stuff to donate. I give away clothing like you wouldn't believe! I'm also going to be destashing my fabric supply. My new sewing room will be bigger, but I still want to lighten the load. I've got lots of flannel to put in the shop, so if you're in the market, stop by soon & see what's available.

In our new house, I'll be able to properly decorate my sewing room. I can't wait to be able to paint & hang shelves at will. To get myself into the mood, I made a new cover for the ironing board. The old one was a bit tired.

This fabric is a lot nicer and I had it on hand. I think it looks a lot better now and will copliment the new room. What a fun way to destash...use what you have! haha

Now I need to get back to work. As Nick said the other day, I'm in my element. I love to be busy and I love to plan! Wish us luck on the house too, we hope to be making the offer soon.

March 16, 2009

I'm Sew Hip!

Have you guys seen a copy of Sew Hip Magazine yet? It's a new one from the UK, I've mentioned it once before. Yeah, that's the one.

Well, they recently contacted me about using one of my tote bags in the April issue. There's a little feature on them. Naturally I said, "yes!". So, today (thanks to my British mother-in-law and sister-in-law) I received my copy!

That's my Neighborhood Tote, right between two Cath Kidston bags (I have those, by the way). I feel very honored to be sandwiched between Cath's lovely totes. It's my first appearance in a magazine of any kind...I'm thrilled.

And to celebrate, I actually worked on a fun project this afternoon. I finally got out Heather Bailey's Fresh-Picked Pincushions pattern and made this cute little apple. Fun stuff!! Maybe tomorrow I'll make a pear.

March 13, 2009

Two Spoonfuls: Marshmallows

Have you ever thought of making your own marshmallows? (Add them to the list of things that intimidate me, but now I know how easy it is!) Jenn and I decided that this week we're going to make the same food using different recipes.

My recipe came from a cookbook called: Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey. It's full of very decadent recipes for all sorts of desserts. The marshmallows were my second recipe attempt from this book.

Homemade marshmallows are mainly made of sugar & corn syrup, but you also need a little water, some gelatin, vanilla and salt. The candy thermometer is a must! I've had it on my shopping list for a long time but finally got one for my marshmallow experience. (I got mine at Target for about $10.)

All you do is add water to the gelatin and let it set.
Heat some water, sugar, corn syrup and salt until the sugar dissloves, then let it slowly boil until it reaches 240 degrees F. Pretty easy, no?

Next you add the hot liquid sugars to your mixer bowl with the gelatin in the bottom. Turn it on and let it go for 15 minutes. It's amazing how much it changes. It sort of smells at first, but soon turns white and fluffy. Really fluffy...and really sticky. I tried very hard not to mess with it too much once it was done. Boy is that stuff sticky.

Scoop it into a pan, spread it out, sprinkle the top with powdered sugar & let it sit. I've found all sorts of recipes online and they all say different things about how long to let your marshmallows set. My recipe said 8-12 hours, I waited about 10. I followed Jenn's tip and cut them with a smooth knife, not serrated. It worked fine, and a longer blade was best. I rolled them in powdered sugar and that was it.

This recipe was super easy, and very tasty too. They are surprisingly light and not as sticky as I expected. I made an extra effort to coat all sides with powdered sugar when I cut them, I think that helped.

They look great in a cup of cocoa, don't you think? I get my cocoa at Trader Joe's, it's Fair Trade and good too.

Wasn't it lucky that Nick and I had a Seattle trip planned? Jenn and I were able to conduct a very scientific taste comparison test. haha (They tasted the same.)

Next time I want to try adding some flavor, or maybe make them pink!

Now, let's drop in at Jenn's kitchen & see how her sticky experience went.


If you'd like to try making your own homemade marshmallows, check out some of these cool recipes:


March 11, 2009

Getting Organized

Things are pretty slow in my shops these days so I'm trying to take this time to get myself organized. You never know when you're going to be moving or having a baby, so why not get ahead while you can, right?

One of the ways I've been organizing myself is by planning my meals. I created a Weekly Meal Planner for myself & it seems to be helping me a lot. I'm no longer standing at the fridge every day wondering what to make for dinner. And to be honest, I really enjoy flipping through my cookbooks to find new things to make. It's a lot easier to shop with your meals planned too.

Pop on over to my website and you can download my Weekly Meal Planner for free. You'll get a single PDF file with both a portrait and landscape version. There's also a handy metric conversion chart to download. It's helpful when reading Japanese patterns or when you want to know how many inches 5/8 of a yard is. Enjoy!

I'm also working on a cleaning schedule. Things are a little less stressful if they're spread out over the week. Who wants to spend a whole day cleaning house? Not me. I was saying to Nick that I'd like to make some of my own cleaning products too, and then we went to the book store.

You know those great Mrs. Meyer's cleaning products? The all-natural ones in the cool packaging? Well, there's a book too, Mrs. Meyer's Clean Home: No-nonsense advice that will inspire you to clean like the dickens. I got it last night and I'm already hooked. There are some great tips, recipes for easier ways to clean things without nasty chemicals, and a suggested weekly cleaning routine. I highly recommend it.

I also have this book, which is a great resource for living green and making your own cleaners. It's full of recipes and information.

Some other ways I get organized:
  • Go through the bookshelves, closets and dressers periodically to find things you can donate. I am very good at this, Nick is not. :)
  • Check all of your medicines, makeup and other toiletries for expiration dates. It's not just your food that needs to be thrown away after it gets old.
  • Give your computer a good look and see if you've got some files you can archive. Every 6 months or so I like to burn cd's of my photos and other files that I don't need to access as often.
Things to check out:

March 04, 2009

I've been planning to expand Monkey Travel Club to include friends of monkeys. Here's what I've come up with so far...

Nick thinks the cat needs a mouth. I suppose he's right. Is it weird to have a shop called Monkey Travel Club that has a cat, a penguin and a pig in it? Anyway, these guys will get me started in my exploration of the animal world, in yarn. They'll be packing their bags for their debut in my shop soon.

And, in case you're wondering why my shop has such a weird name, it's because of the Flickr Group. If you've got one of my monkeys, please join the group and post some photos. I like to see them happy, in their new homes.

p.s. Animal suggestions welcome.